#SummerResolution Series: #SimpleK12

Have you made your Summer Resolution yet? Many people have already! Leave us a comment and tell us what your Summer Resolution is!  Over the next several weeks, I am going to present you with simple and refreshing ideas on how you can grow as an educator during this time of relaxation :)

If you are a teacher and love technology, there is nothing better than learning from other like-minded people. About a year ago, I joined SimpleK12  as a free member, so that I could learn more about using iPads in the classroom. It enabled me to listen to live webinars on different educational technology topics that mattered to me. I have really enjoyed listening to world-class educators share their passions and ideas in simple 30 to 60 minute presentations. Best of all, I can participate in live chats and ask the experts questions!

Want to be an iPad expert? Want to learn more implementing the Common Core? Need new technology ideas?  You can find a wealth of information in this online community from teachers in the trenches, who know what they are talking about. I was so impressed that I acquired a full membership, so that I could enjoy other perks, like having the ability to listen to webinars on demand! From webinars to discussion forums to valuable resources....it's worth using for your entire school district!

I have also been privileged enough to make a few presentations on a variety of topics over the past several months. I am always looking forward to my next presentation! If you are interested in hearing a webinar in action, check out my webinar on July 3, 2013 @ 10:00 am on Removing Barriers and Helping Students Learn with Universal Design for Learning.

Summer Resolution Series: #Edmodo

Social networking is the name of the game in education today. If our students are already using it, why not use it in your classroom? Many school districts cringe at this comment, but it is true. We need to find ways to get our kids engaged and social networking is a great tool to teach valuable 21st Century skills. I have mentioned the free educational social network called Edmodo in the past, but today I am going to talk about how teachers can use it as part of my Summer Resolution series.

It may not be a bad idea to experiment with Edmodo this summer because not only is it free, but it is easy to use.  Many teachers are creating their own Edmodo accounts to connect in virtual book discussion groups over the summer.Why not use it as a tool to connect with your dedicated colleagues over the summer?

Several years ago, my colleagues and I used this as a tool to discuss Eric Jensen's book Teaching with Poverty in Mind. It was a great way to reflect and connect over the course of the year without needing to attend daily meetings. Many of my colleagues really enjoyed connecting with each other virtually. I also developed an Edmodo group for a group of online instructors at Regional Training Center to discuss ideas, issues, and information.

This sounds great in theory; however, let me share with you a few lessons I have learned before you jump in.

1. Consistency - Edmodo is a great professional development tool, but if you are not posting on a daily or every other day basis, then people tend to lose interest and forget about it. Make sure that you are consistently sharing information on a regular basis, even if it is sharing external links to news stories. My online instructor group failed miserably because I was not consistent enough and did not provide users with a reason to visit Edmodo each day.

2. If users don't know how to use it, you will lose it. Probably the biggest hurdle to overcome is the barrier that technology presents to some educators. Many of us are intimidated by technology and need supports in place like written instructions or video clips. Give educators in your group a chance to learn how to use it. Here is a sample video clip that I created on my YouTube channel for teachers to learn how to use Edmodo.

How I plan to use Edmodo this summer:

As many of you know, I teach graduate courses for Regional Training Center. In just a few weeks, I will be off to the eastern shore of Maryland to teach a course on Universal Design for Learning. I am planning on using Edmodo as a way for students in my course to share resources, upload assignments, and communicate ideas. It will be a great way to connect with a group of educators from another state with only a click of a mouse.

Do you have ideas for our Summer Resolution Series? Do you want to serve as a guest blogger? Contact me with your ideas or for more information.

Summer Resolution Series: Get Organized

As summer approaches, I thought it might be a good idea to explore (and re-explore) some technologies that can help us all become more effective and efficient in the classroom. My next several blog posts will feature need-to-know tools for educators to implement next school year. I call it my "Summer Resolution Series!" Some of the technologies have been featured before, but are worth the re-write! In order to provide relevant examples, I will also share how I have used the technologies.

I recently listened to an audio version of the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. In one of the chapters, he mentions a study that was done with patients who had joint replacement surgery. It was found that people who wrote down specific recovery goals actually recovered faster from the surgery.

Having an idea of what you want to accomplish is nothing new and is as old as time. We all keep track of what we want to do in different ways. Some of us fly by the seat of our pants, while others tend to be more strategic and write things down. Those who write things down tend to be more efficient.

I once had an assistant principal, who began each morning with writing down every single thing that he wanted to accomplish during the day on a legal pad. He began each day with rewriting tasks that were not accomplished the day before and adding new ones to the compiled daily list. It was a great way of getting organized, but very time consuming. Many of us want to create the habit of writing things down, but we don't want to waste time.

Tip 1: Get Organized with Wunderlist!

Wunderlist 2 could be a great way of organizing tasks into a virtual list that can be shared across multiple platforms. The newest version of  Wunderlist 2 has created an easy way of sharing and syncing tasks across your computer, smart phone, or tablet. This program has some pretty cool features, like:

  1. An Activity Center for users to filter their tasks more easily by alphabetical order, due date, or who you assigned the task to. The newest version makes it easier to assign due dates and set reminders. 
  2. Subtasks or detailed instructions can be added to your list. I often use this feature to add detailed information like links to websites, names, or notes from a phone conversation that I had. It's perfect for keeping information that you may or may not want to see later. 
  3. The Reminder Feature can send alerts in the form of desktop notifications or emails, so that to you can complete your task on time.
  4. Completed tasks can be viewed or hidden. It's perfect for the times when you may need to  revisit a completed task.
  5. Collaboration tools provide unique ways of sharing lists with others. You can invite friends to add, edit, and check off tasks on a shared list! Lists can also be shared by email. This is a great feature because I can collaborate with colleagues (asynchronously and at different locations) to create professional development opportunities for staff. We can create lists together without needing to be in the same room at the same time. I am also thinking about having my students use it next year as a way to teach collaboration and strategic thinking, as they work on projects. 
Wunderlist 2 may not be a bad way to get more organized this summer. It's a free and easy tool that can be used across multiple platforms. Why not give it a try? 

Check out this #iPadEd App: Essential Skeleton

I remember that I was not very motivated to learn about the human body as a seventh grade science student. If you know me, you know that I am a hands-on learner. This particular course was difficult because we were all expected to learn skeletal system the same way, by using a one-size-fits all graphic organizer. This was an academic barrier for me for several reasons:
  1. I couldn't actually manipulate an actual skeleton, which is how I learn best. I had to write down the names on a piece of paper. 
  2. Even after I wrote down the names, I couldn't pronounce them well enough to remember them!
If my teacher's curriculum would have been Universally Designed, it could have addressed potential barriers in learning for students like myself. If I was a student sitting in class today, I would have needed the free Essential Skeleton App to access the curriculum and better understand the skeletal system. 

Addressing Barrier # 1: The Need for Hands-On Learning

Students in today's classrooms can use the Essential Skeleton to gain a better understanding of the skeletal system in this 360 degree model. It is an easy-to-use and user-friendly application, providing a highlighted outline of the bone (when you click on it), the actual name, and Latin name.

Perhaps students need to research the location of a specific bone or a certain set of bones. The search feature can help locate what they are looking for. Students can add customized notes and drawings, while using the drawing tools feature. When they are finished, they can share it via email, social media, or add to their camera roll. 

The Quiz feature helps test what learner knows through several types of quiz formats, such as drag and drop or multiple choice. Students can quiz themselves on a variety of information, such as a specific system or the entire skeletal system.  If students get a specific question wrong, the App helps identify the correct part.

Addressing Barrier # 2: Pronouncing the Names

Part of remembering the location of specific bones is understanding how to pronounce the name of the bone. Many of our students become frustrated with not being able to pronounce it correctly or remember how it is pronounced. Essential Skeleton has a built in audio feature that provides the proper pronunciation of the bone, alleviating this burden from our students. 


Technology is creating opportunities for students to create customized learning experiences, which provide access to learning for all students. By identifying potential barriers to learning and providing tools to address these barriers, a curriculum can provide access to learning for all students. 

Want to learn more about Universal Design for Learning? Click here

Use This App to Connect Today with Yesterday!

How do we engage students with history? How do you connect students with today and yesterday? World Book's This Day in History is a unique iTunes App that provides students various ways of connecting and representing historical events, through  photos, illustrations, and even music!

Using the App

Do you know what happened in history on May 9th? I learned that American abolitionist, John Brown, was born in 1800. When I tapped on the hyperlink containing his name, I was able to learn from his bio that he had over 20 kids!

Research from CAST  has discovered that the way that "students learn is as different as their DNA." Students often interpret and interact with information differently; therefore  providing students with options on how they perceive information is helpful (Universal Design for Learning). We may think that this is difficult; however, I found several examples of this in this App.

For example, I tapped on archaeologist Howard Carter's bio and was surprised to hear an actual speech that he delivered about discovering the tomb of King Tut. This would be a great resource for auditory learners to hear the description of the event, as well as the emotion and excitement in his voice.

I tapped on another link and learned that today is Romania's Independence Day. When I opened the bio / description, I was surprised to hear the Romanian National Anthem. What a great way of connecting music and history!

How Can I Use This? 

You can use this App in many different ways. It could be used as a research tool for students. They could investigate historical events on any date on the calendar. It could also be used as an interesting way of beginning class. Hook your iPad up to a projector for students to see an "event" as they walk into class. What a great way to get the "juices" flowing in their brain!

Regardless of your subject area, this is a great way to engage students and connect history with your subject area! Let me know what you think!

MyScript Calculator is an Awesome App!

I remember my seventh grade Math teacher always used to tell us that we had to "write neatly" or he wouldn't grade our work. He would also have us use an entire forest of scrap paper to write our answers down! When he was satisfied, he would heat up some pasta and watch us from afar! Oh memories! In all seriousness, I had my Math teacher in mind when I found the MyScript Calculator App in the iTunes store for both iPads and iPhones. It would have made seventh grade, so much easier!

How does it work? MyScript has users write a mathematical expression and converts the numbers and symbols into text. Then the fun begins! It solves your problem! Whether its exponents, basic operations, or Trigonometry expressions, MyScript helps users interact and engage with Math in a whole new way.

Can you imagine the implications for hands-on learners? Sometimes learners need another way to represent material in order to understand it. The interaction with MyScript represents gives hands-on learners a way to "get it."

Some Math teachers may cringe when they see this tool because they may feel that it will replace scrap paper or students could use it to cheat. I see it as a great tool for students to check their work. It is the equivalent of how some textbook companies provide the answers in the back for the book.

Students still need to "show what they know" by using scrap paper to show their work; however, MyScript could be a great way to help them come to the right answer. It makes me think that this could be a great tool for differentiated classrooms, where students are learning different material at different paces. Why? Users have a built in tool to check their work. You may even want to share this tool with parents as a homework help support, helping both parents and students reduce frustration.

Whether you are a Math teacher or a student, I believe this tool would be a great addition to your classroom tools. Not only is it very helpful, but it is free! Check it out today and let me know what you think!

Post # 200: Vine

I cannot believe it! After starting this blog over 2 years ago, I am finally on post number 200! It has been amazing to see the change in educational technology in just a short amount of time. I have also seen an evolution in social media too. MySpace to Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to...

With this theme in mind, I want to introduce you to a new social media tool called Vine.

If you are not familiar with Twitter, users are asked to compose
messages in 140 characters or less. Vine takes this same idea and applies it to video clips.

This iPhone App allows users to upload and post videos to Vine for free. Users can also share on Twitter and Facebook. This application is very much like Instagram, where users can follow and interact with other users. Users can also follow trends, editors picks, etc. through featured hashtags.

In a culture obsessed with sharing bits and pieces of their life on the Internet, this app has the potential to become the next "big thing" like Instagram.

Letters to My Coach: St. Crispin's Day

When I was in high school, I played varsity football for Coach Mike Vertucci. Coach V was a master at finding creative ways to motivate his ...